Why Digital Influencers Aren’t Enough

We live in a digital age, rife with social networks, digital publishing platforms, and online communities that tantalize marketers with a seemingly affordable and measurable way to reach large numbers of consumers. It’s no wonder marketers have flocked to digital tactics to support their brands.

But as the value of a digital impression has declined, due to ad blockers, bots, and a lack of consumer engagement, many marketers have altered their digital approach to focus on influencers as opposed to advertising. But are digital influencers like bloggers and social media darlings really an effective and compelling way to market to consumers?

Authors Ed Keller and Brad Fay think not. In The Face-to-Face Book, Keller and Fay conclude that real relationships rule in a digital age, with 90% of recommendations that lead to consumer action occurring offline. While the internet can deliver impressive scale, it is a mile wide and an inch deep, lacking the ability to deliver real engagement and real influence—the kinds of interactions that drive choice at shelf.

While digital remains an effective approach for building brand awareness and generating interest, a default reliance on digital influencers can be a mistake—particularly for healthy brands. According to the most recent IFIC Food & Health Survey, just 13% of consumers trust bloggers for accurate health & nutrition information. Turns out, these digital influencers have neither the trust nor credibility to effectively deliver healthy brand messages or recommendations.   

When looking to tap into influencers to market a healthy brand, here are three key questions to ask to ensure those influencers are worth your time and money:

1. Are they credible?

IFIC found that consumers trust dietitians/nutritionists and their own personal health professional more than other sources, including TV personalities, bloggers, and social media. Will your healthy brand messages be delivered to consumers by someone they trust?  

2. Is the influence being delivered in an appropriate context?

McKinsey & Company reports that the setting or context in which a recommendation is made is  crucial to the power of the message. Messages delivered within a tight, trusted network, such as that between a consumer and their health professional, have a greater impact than those circulated through dispersed communities.

3. Is the influence being delivered face-to-face?

There are 15 billion conversations about brands every week in America. With trust in traditional advertising down, and 90% of recommendations that lead to consumer action happening offline, marketers should focus on earning face-to-face recommendations from trusted influencers to cut through the clutter and maximize impact.

As Keller and Fay found, good marketing starts with conversations, and some conversations are more impactful than others. By all means, healthy brands should build awareness digitally.  But if you want your brand to become a part of a consumer’s everyday choices, make sure they’re getting the information from a trusted source, in the right context, and face-to-face.